Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Open Minds Advance Society

Open Minds Advance Society

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
November 2009, Volume 86, No. 2

“Imagine  world without religion.” Some people think the world would be a better and much more peaceful place. Perhaps, however, we should try to imagine a world without closed-minded people. Despite the many wars that have been waged over the centuries in the name of religion, they all boil down to closed-mindedness and even willful ignorance.

A prime example of this willful religious ignorance is the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Known as “America’s most hated family,” Westboro members picket the funerals of U.S. soldiers, carrying signs with slogans such as “God Hates America” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” They claim the fallen soldiers are dead at the hands of God’s angry judgment because they fought for a country that tolerates gays.

They claim to believe the Bible and base their beliefs on a few passages that Pastor Fred Phelps uses to seemingly confirm his theological ideas. However, in context, it is clear that the Bible does not send a message of absolute hatred. Have these people ever stopped to ask if they are wrong? Have they ever tested their own beliefs? Probably not. It is likely that they have long justified their ignorance as faith.” However, faith is not the same thing as ignorance.

Being open-minded does not mean letting go of all standards. It means people must look beyond what they have been told to believe and examine why they believe it. If a person chooses, however, to remain ignorant, he may continue traditions of intolerance and injustice without even realizing it.

We should be open-minded in all aspects of our lives, including politics, science, religion and education. Then, if what we believe is true, that belief will only be confirmed. When a person fears to question his own beliefs, it shows that he may be afraid of being proven wrong.

Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of an open mind when he said thus:

Shake of all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

Since Jefferson’s time, slavery has been abolished and women and minorities have gained equal rights under the law. Were it not for open minds, the presidential election of 2008 would have only been a contest between white men. Instead, two women, a man of mixed race and two white men all vied for the top two offices in the United States in one of the most hotly contested elections in history.

So keep an open mind. It may be what makes this world a better place for future generations.


More From My Interview With Joe Tegerdine

A few days ago, I posted an article I wrote for the May 2010 edition of The Radionian, which was based on interviews I conducted with U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi’s 4th district and his potential November opponent, Joe Tegerdine. Due to the constraints of an article, I was not able to include all of the information I garnered. Also, since it was strictly a news article and not an opinions article, I witheld my impressions and thoughts to preserve the integrity of the medium (besides, had I included my impressions, they would have been edited out anyway).

So, I’m going to post some more quotes and impressions from the interviews with the candidate and the Congressman. Here’s more from my conversation with Joe Tegerdine. Later, I will post more from my conversation with Congressman Taylor as well.

The Town Hall Meeting:

Joe Tegerdine went a little more in depth on the Town Hall meeting that spawned his candidacy. According to him, Taylor was dodging questions of other attendees and refusing to adequately answer one of his own, which was about The Give Act.

“I couldn’t believe how arrogant and condescending our congressman is. You know, you watch it on television and you just see these guys spin questions and never answer questions, and you expect it because it’s TV.”

“At the end I answered questions of people he had refused to answer, and then his comment to me was ‘This is my town hall meeting, not yours.'”

On the Political Establishment and His Candidacy:

“I called around our Republican leadership and talked to some of our elected leaders and nobody believed Gene Taylor could be beat.”

“I said ‘No, we can beat him. If we run the right campaign we can win.'”

“I think even some of the Democrats are starting to realize that they’ve put our country in a precarious situation economically.”

“If you have people in there who are making decisions based on re election and based on special interests–lobby money that they get through PACs–then the problems are not going to subside. We’ll continue on the same destructive path.”

“On our state level I’ve met a lot of are representatives. They’re pretty excited. They look at this as the future of politics of America. This is going to help us get back on track.”

“There’s always that negative element–the power structure, the powers that be–they don’t like to be challenged, and they don’t like someone like me who is an outsider to their politican network–coming and rattling the cages a bit.”

“I truly believe that if I wasn’t a viable candidate they would just ignore me. But based on the attacks I’m getting from both of my opponents, I’m pretty sure they both feel like ‘Okay, this guy is a challenger.’ And for Taylor, I’m a challenger. For Palazzo, I’m the guy he’s got to try to beat.”

“I’m not coming in ignorant. You know, just yelling and angry. I actually have some substance to what I believe and what I’m saying and what I think we need to do to get things back in order.”

On Education:

“I think that at some level you have to say, ‘Let’s stop treating the symptoms’– you know, all these different programs–Let’s put the responsibility back on the parents and say educate your kids.”

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing. I played on championship football teams and I played on teams that didn’t win a game the entire season and I learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.”

“You’re going to probably fail more times that you’re going to succeed. So why are trying to insulate ourselves from that? Why are we trying to insulate our children from that lesson? It’s really absurd.”

On Welfare:

“I think the government has to slowly wean the states off of federal aid. It’s not Constitutional. I think you have to slowly wean them off. You can’t do it overnight or you’d have a humanitarian crisis.”

“We have to incentivize people to work. So if somebody can make $1000 a month working a job but the federal government gives them $1200 to do nothing, you have to remove that equation.”

On Term Limits:

Under Joe Tegerdine’s proposed Constitutional amendment, Senators would only be limited to only serving two terms (twelve years) and House Representatives would be limited to four terms (eight years). I asked him, however, why Senators should get twelve years when House Reps and even the President was limited to eight. He agreed that it would make sense to limit them to only eight years as well.

“I could see them having four years terms so that they would be like the President. I think that would be fine. I don’t think Senators have to be in there six years. I think it’s not as crucial for them to serve six.”

“I feel like we’ve been experimenting the for the last three-hundreds years with no term limits and I think it’s time we did a little experimenting with term limits.”

But how would we ever get Congressman and Senators to place limits on the offices that they themselves hold?

“Put in an exemption that this law only applies to new people coming into office,” he said.

On Faith

“As a candidate, I feel that it’s important that people know what my faith is.”

“I think people in our district expect to know where people stand on faith and religion. They want a leader who is going to be a strong Christian. I appreciate the other elected officials in our state who will mention their faith, their commitment to Christian principles.”

“When I think about the Establishment Clause, I think it’s definitely been misinterpreted. I don’t think that our founding fathers ever intended for the bill of rights to take religion out of government. If their intent was that there would be a state religion or a preference given to one denomination. I think for some reason we got way for off to where people think that Separation of Church and State means that there is no place for religion. There’s a reason why we traditionally have opened our sessions of Congress with a word of prayer. There’s a reason why at the inauguration there’s a prayer. It’s part of our culture, our heritage–our Christian faith. And to try to deny that or remove that from the public square is to take away from a necessary part of our culture.”

On Abortion:

“Ideally, Roe v. Wade would have never been put before the Supreme Court and it would have remained a state issue. But we know that some of the people in minority position will manipulate courts or push things through to get the court’s recognition and the approval that they desire.”

“I’ve considered before ‘What do you do with abortion?’ It’s really difficult because of that precedent that has been set with Roe v. Wade because they can’t legislate and say ban abortions. I think the only way to ban abortions would be a Constitutional Amendment that prohibits abortions. Otherwise I’m afraid it’s always going to be with us.”

“I would support anything that would help eliminate abortion.”

“Abortion affects our culture in ways that we sometimes don’t even realize. It permeates our thoughts about life and the sanctity of life and our relationship with others.”

Prosperity Pimps Exploit the Recession

Prosperity Preachers Exploit the Recession

The Radionian
by Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
October 2009, Volume 86, No. 1

In the midst of the current economic recession, at least one business model is prospering, and it calls itself Christianity, but some of us know it as the prosperity gospel. All across America, millionaire preachers of this twisted theology are taking advantage of the financial concerns of the faithful in order to boost their own cash flows even higher.
In August, the ministry of Kenneth Copeland, who is often considered the patriarch of today’s prosperity movement, hosted the Southerwest Believer’s Convention in Ft. Worth, Texas. An all-star line up of like-minded preachers joined Copeland, including Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, and Jerry Savelle.
“Fear will make you stingy,” said Copeland to approximately 9,000 attendees.
Savelle, quick to agree with him, added that “Anytime a worried thought about money pops in your mind, the next thing you need to do is sow . . . That’s God’s stimulus package for you.”
“Sowing” in Savelle’s vernacular means giving money to televangelists with the promise that God will multiply it back to you.
Essentially, while Copeland and his ilk are making $100 million a year, taking extravagant vacations in private jets, and living in their multi-million dollar homes, they have the gall to tell people who are struggling to pay the bills, unemployed, and living in financial uncertainty that they are “stingy” for not feeding their gluttony with more money.
Creflo Dollar’s ministry is no different. Recent sermons with titles like “How to Win in a Recession” and “Overcoming the Fear of Recession” continue to exploit the gullible by admonishing them to give abundantly in order that they may prosper in spite of the recession.
In one sermon, Dollar even went as far as to infer that by giving to his ministry, salvation could be attained. “If you take the time to tithe and tithe correctly, it’s impossible to go to hell,” said Dollar, “‘Cause if you’re doing all of that, man, tithing will keep you in heaven.”
These prosperity pimps, as I like to affectionately call them, prey upon what Jesus called “the least of these”–the sick, the poor, and the elderly–by making promises of divine intervention. If you’re poor, the answer is to just tithe and sow seed and God will rain money down upon you. If you’re sick or in pain, God will not be able to give you a miraculous healing until you have given a sufficient amount.
The irony of all of this is that the very religion that these so-called preachers claim to follow runs counter to the ideas that they espouse. Jesus himself was a carpenter of modest means. The Apostle Paul was a traveling preacher who relied on the generosity of others to sustain him.
The Bible never instructs believers to give money to large ministries or preachers; in fact, when it talks about giving, it refers to being charitable to the poor, to widows, and to orphans, which is what collections were for. It certainly never promises that believers will be rich for giving; on the contrary, it promises tribulation and suffering while on earth.
The only thing the Bible ever said that may relate to the Prosperity Gospel is found in 1 Timothy 6:9-11:
“We brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.
“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wondered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (New Living Translation)
I wonder how often Copeland, Dollar, or Savelle preach that portion of Scripture.

The Link Between Gay Genocide in Uganda and Christian Fascism in America

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni supports a law that would imprison or put to death homosexuals in his country.

The Proposed Gay Genocide Law in Uganda

Uganda may be preparing to pass and implement one of the greatest legislative travesties of human rights in decades. While Uganda has had a long history of intolerance to homosexuality, it is now preparing to take this hatred one step further–a new law, with goals reminiscent to those of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, is currently going through the Ugandan legislature, citizens caught practicing, supporting, or defending homosexuality could face not only imprisonment, but the death penalty. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, recently described and explained the law in an interview on Fresh Air:

[The] new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that’s aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be – I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex – in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you’re subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don’t report it, that could mean – you don’t report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it’s really kind of a perfect case study and the export of a lot of American largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

The legislation is supported by Ugandan dictator Yoweri Musevni, who, in 1998, following a visit to America, had this to say:

When I was in America, some time ago, I saw a rally of 300,000 homosexuals.  If you have a rally of 20 homosexuals here, I would disperse it.

The Family: Religious Fascism in America

But this story is not only about Uganda; there is an American connection here, if not an American root. The Ugandan legislator who introduced the bill, a man by the name of David Bahati, is a member of The Family, a right-wing religious organization (which resembles a cult more than anything) that seeks to influence national and international policy based on their “Christian” beliefs. According to Sharlet, the founder of the group was a man by the name of Abraham Vereide:

[T]he founder of the group, Abraham Vereide, said that God came to him one night in April 1935 and said Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor, the suffering, the down and out. [God said] I want you to be a missionary to and for the powerful, those who he calls the up and out. They can dispense blessings to everybody else through a sort of kind of trickle-down religion.

Such a supposedly “Christian” theology can easily be dismissed, as it is wholly inconsistent with Christian scripture:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27 (NASB)

Following a hunger for power on religious motivation does not seem to line up with “keeping oneself unstained by the world.”

Throughout history, there have been millions of men who claimed to speak for God, and such men, or “false prophets,” have led countless people, societies, and nations into ruin and destruction.

The deception of The Family from its founding developed into a group of people who wielded religious appeal in their ascent to power. Sharlet says that “when The Family talks about power being the bottom line of the New Testament, they really mean it. Power trumps love.”

In the tumultuous years of the 1930’s and the 1940’s, The Family actually embraced the ideas of Hitler and Mussolini. They then developed their own idea–something that they called “Totalitarianism for Christ.” In fact, an oft-repeated mantra of The Family was “Jesus didn’t come to take sides; He came to take over.”

Below is a video The Family released several years ago calling Christians to action in order that they may come to control all society, or “the seven mountains of culture” — in terms of government, education, media, arts and entertainment, religion, family, and business. Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With a Mission (an offshoot of The Family) claims that God spoke this plan directly to him.

This may sound like a fringe group to you, but the level of power The Family has managed to obtain in the U.S. since its inception may surprise you. There is a shockingly large number of Family members serving at high levels of U.S. government right now, comprised of both Democrats and Republicans.

Currently elected Family members include: Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy., Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Sen Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Penn, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.

One of the most shocking people associated with The Family is a woman who has played a key part in breaking the glass ceiling of women in politics–and no, it’s not Sarah Palin. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a part of secretive religious organizations, including The Family, for nearly 20 years.

That is not intended to be an attack on Hillary or any of the other officials listed. I am not attempting to claim that they support the Ugandan laws or the overall goal of The Family (if they even know about it). As Sharlet explains:

Democrats and Republicans get involved with this with the best of intentions.

Someone comes to them and says hey, let’s talk about prayer. Let’s reach across the aisle. Let’s get together. This is the group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, which a lot of congressmen mistakenly think is an ecumenical event going back to the early days of the republic. In fact, it’s a private, sectarian event organized by The Family as a sort of a lobbying fest. But they get involved with the best of intentions and, I think, are slowly brought into a relationship where they start moving rightward.

Whether or not the listed officials have any sympathies with the true goals of The Family is irrelevant; the mere associations just proves how deeply entrenched this fascist organization is in high levels of American power.

A Call to the Defense of Human Rights

Even as The Family continues to exert influence in America, the extent to which it has influenced Ugandan policy cannot be ignored. Should this horrendous miscarriage of human rights become law, Uganda will become the center of one of the greatest, state-sponsored genocides since Hitler’s Holocaust.

One thing is now clear — the argument that the persecution of homosexuals cannot be compared to the persecution of blacks is not valid; no one in Uganda will ever have to fear death or imprisonment because of their dark skin, but millions of them will face those fates based on their personal sexual preference.

It does not matter what your personal view is on homosexuality, as to whether it is right or wrong. All who love freedom and respect life should speak out against this law, and encourage our national leaders as well as our religious leaders to send a clear message.

Props go out for this statement released by Christian leaders which speaks strongly against this Ugandan law, concluding by saying that:

Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love. Yet we are painfully aware that in our country gays and lesbians still face hostility and violence. We recognize that such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good and defies the teachings of our Lord — wherever it occurs.

Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, who has a large sphere of influence amongst Ugandan Christians, also released a video statement:

There are many American leaders and other leaders worldwide who recognize human dignity and understand that we are all endowed with the liberty to choose the course of our own lives without having to fear government control of our private lives–especially at the threat of imprisonment and death. It is incumbent of such leaders to speak up.

For all of those who would seek to justify this on religious grounds, this is a true Christian outlook on all oppression:

Learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow. -Isaiah 1:17

President Obama must step up and strongly condemn this law for the evil travesty that it is, without diplomatic refrain. Whether I voted for you or agree with you, Mr. President, the world is looking to the President of the United States for leadership; lead first by defending life, liberty, and human dignity in the face of oppression and genocide.


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